Peggy Webber during her heyday as a voice actress.The author is a producer of audio drama, audiobooks and sonic storytelling. Along with running her own audio company, SueMedia Productions, Zizza is the president of the board of the National Audio Theaters and one of the program coordinators for the Hear Now Festival. She is a member of the faculty at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts – Film.
The late Norman Corwin’s long career in the media included work as a writer, screenwriter, producer, essayist and journalism professor. However, for many he will always be remembered for what some consider his greatest works: his radio plays.
It was through his plays that Corwin became the first producer to use entertainment programs regularly to address serious issues of his day (see a Radio World profile at http://tinyurl.com/oamqrbz).
In honor of his 100th birthday in 2010, the National Audio Theatre Festivals created the Norman Corwin Award for Excellence in Audio Theatre and presented Corwin with the first award.
Since that time, on Corwin’s birthday in May each year, NATF has honored an audio dramatist or group who has have made significant contributions furthering the medium of audio theatre in the United States. When possible, the award is presented at the closing ceremonies of the Hear Now Festival, hosted by NATF.
“The application process is simple,” said Rich Fish, who helped to create the award. “All you need to do is visit the NATF site at www.natf.org and complete the online nomination form by April 1, 2015. The committee will review all the applications and a winner will be selected and announced on Norman’s birthday in May.”
The Norman Corwin Award for Excellence in Audio Theatre recognizes an audio dramatist or group who has have made significant contributions furthering the medium of audio theatre in the United States. It is named in honor of radio playwright Norman Corwin.FIRST
Peggy Webber of the California Artists Radio Theater was awarded the 2014 Norman Corwin Award for Excellence in Audio Theatre. She became the first woman to receive this award, the only one of its kind in the U.S., which celebrates a lifetime of achievement in this sonic art.
In her acceptance speech at the Hear Now Festival, Webber said, “Norman Corwin was my hero from 1942 to this day. His writing and his philosophy, his humor, his seeing beyond his era was awesome to behold. I saw that he was favored by something beyond our average understanding, and that something reached the masses.”
A native of Texas, Webber, now almost 90, began her acting career at the age of 2-1/2, performing in theaters during intermissions in silent movies. She got her break into radio at age 11 and went on to perform in some 8,000 network radio shows.
In 1984, after more than 40 years as a radio, television, film and theatre actress-director-producer, Webber began her quest to revive radio drama and to encourage young people to enjoy the art. Since 1984, when she founded the nonprofit California Artists Radio Theatre, Webber has continued to write, direct, act and produce hundreds of new audio programs, including a tribute to actor Norman Lloyd that will air this September.
Peggy Webber with her Corwin Award. CART stages and records works by some of the world’s greatest authors including George Bernard Shaw, William Shakespeare, Ray Bradbury, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and of course, Corwin. CART programs have received awards from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the New York International Radio Festival, the Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters and the National Federation of Community Broadcasters.
Webber has appeared in 300 television programs, 100 stage plays and 20 feature films. Since 1938, she has written and directed some 250 stage plays, radio and television programs.
During the “Golden Age” of radio in the 1930s and 1940s, Peggy could be heard on many of the premier programs of the day including “Suspense,” “The Adventures of Sam Spade,” “One Man’s Family,” “The Columbia Workshop,” “Escape,” Herbert Marshall’s “Man Called X” and “Dragnet” — in which Jack Webb, the program’s producer and star, considered her to be his favorite member of the show’s stock company and cast her as Sergeant Friday’s mother.
Webber’s work in radio work was a key reason why Orson Welles cast her as Lady McDuff in his 1948 film adaptation of “MacBeth.” She was featured in films by Alfred Hitchcock, Alex Nicol, Stanley Rubin and George Stevens, among others.
The first Norman Corwin Award was presented to its namesake, right, on his 100th birthday in 2010. In early television, Webber wrote and produced “Treasures of Literature,” a series much like the BBC’s later “Masterpiece Theatre,” for which the Television Academy honored her work with an award (later called an Emmy) in 1949.
To date, she has received some 30 national and international awards for her work. She was inducted into the Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2010.
Remembering her long relationship with Corwin, Webber said, “The first response [Norman] sent to me, was for a letter I wrote him, July of 1942, when I was 16, and had just come to Hollywood after graduating high school, seeking a career in theatre. I had never heard his work on radio; I had just found his first book of plays in a crowded small bookstore on Vine Street in Hollywood. I was barely aware there was a writer like Norman Corwin. But I thought his scripts so touching and moving.
“I wrote my first fan letter, and it was to him. His response to me was brief. But I have never forgotten it.
“He wrote to a 16-year-old, a letter of thanks, and in the last paragraph he quoted from the Latin: ‘Ars Longa … Vida Breva!’… ‘Art is long, life is short.’ That was his spelling. I have taken it to my heart. And when I work I always remember his words.”
Past recipients of NATF’s Corwin award have included Tom Lopez of ZBS; Yuri Rasovsky of Hollywood Theater of the Air; the Firesign Theatre; Charles Potter; and Himan Brown.